11 min read

How to Switch from Manual to Automation Testing and Transform Your Career

The author of this article is tech expert Pieter Murphy.

In 2023, the world is not just becoming more digital, it is also transitioning to a more automated future, with the advent of machine learning and AI, as well as new software development methodologies, including Agile and DevOps.

The world of testers will not stay the same either, as the demand for those skills rises. Many tools have been developed to bring everything under one umbrella to meet the shortage and narrow the gap.

These factors have prompted many to move from manual to automation testing.

Taking the Quality Assurance engineer career path can be challenging as a learning experience, but the switch prepares you for where software development is headed while future-proofing your job.

This article explores how to move from manual testing to automation testing, to expand your skillset and career opportunities.

Difference Between Manual and Automated Testing

Let’s examine the difference between manual and automated testing to discover what you need to become proficient at to become an effective automated tester.

Manual testing refers to the traditional way of testing software by manually running tests without scripts or automated tools. Manual testers get under the hood to find defects in a manner that automated tests may miss.

Automated testing will continue to improve, but manual testing is usually needed when evaluating things like the user experience or user interface. The transition to automation attempts to speed up the process and reduce human mistakes and the challenge of scaling up complex projects.

Automation testing, on the other hand, sees testers use automation tools and frameworks to carry out comprehensive tests. These tools can improve the tests' speed, efficiency, coverage, and accuracy. That is especially true for complex scenarios, regression testing, repetitive tasks, etc.

Essential Skills Needed to Transfer from Manual to Test Automation

Before your move from manual to automation testing, it is worth preparing first, and what better way than to start by knowing the skills you will need?

skills needed for automation testers

1. Programming and scripting languages

Start by learning programming languages like Java, Python, Ruby, C#, or JavaScript. Mastering the languages helps you write, modify, and debug test scripts to interact with automation testing tools and frameworks.

You can find useful online courses, both free and paid, that teach you how the languages work and how they are used.

2. Automation testing tools, frameworks, and technologies

The best tools in your arsenal will be the tools themselves. They all have different strengths and weaknesses that you must interact with and understand. That way, you can learn to combine them where appropriate to ensure maximum test coverage.

The tools help test things like mobile, desktop, API, and web software. Some of the most popular titles you will likely come across include Katalon, Cucumber, Selenium, Cypress, TestComplete, and more.

Learn the best practices and interact with them as much as possible to master how they work and are used, to become an expert in automation testing.

3. Functional testing skills

To seamlessly switch from manual testing to automation, you should understand software design, requirements, and functionality and create test cases, data, and scenarios to suit them.

You should also be able to perform manual testing, including usability, performance, functional, security, and regression, to complement your proficiency with automated tools.

4. Test script development

As an automated tester, one of your key strengths should be the ability to design, develop, and maintain test scripts using the proper framework (data-driven, behavior-driven, keyword-driven, page object model, etc.)

You will also need to know the proper coding standards, naming conventions, and documentation practices to ensure your work is easy to follow and present to stakeholders. Learn how to use tools like Jupyter Notebook and Repl.it, Google Colab, and others to create interactive and executable code snippets to include in your portfolio.

5. Understand business requirements

As an automation tester, you will need to have the ability to analyze and interpret the business needs and expectations of the software in question. Hence, your objectives and strategies align with it perfectly.

You should also practice the best ways to communicate and collaborate with the stakeholders, including developers, clients, or managers, to provide clear and concise feedback and reports.

6. Familiarity with Agile, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery

Your switch from manual to automation testing may require you to understand and work with the most widely used software development methodologies, like Agile, DevOps, or Continuous Delivery, to contribute to delivering high-quality software in a shorter time.

You will also need tools like Jenkins, Jira, or Git to support the automation testing process.

7. Communication and collaboration skills

Teach yourself to communicate and collaborate with other developers and testers in cross-functional teams. That means familiarizing yourself with the communication tools (Slack, Teams, or Zoom) to collaborate and communicate effectively and on time.

You should also hone your skills in communicating your findings to other stakeholders in writing. That includes presenting your test results, findings, or recommendations. You can use tools like PowerPoint, Excel, or other productivity suites.

10 Steps to Switch from Manual to Automation Testing

To give you a clearer picture of what switching from manual to automation testing career paths consists of, let’s get into the steps it takes.

how to switch from manual to AQA

Step 1. Assess Your Current Skills Related to Automation Testing Requirements

Now that you know the skillset you’ll need to cultivate on your test automation engineer career path, it is prudent to start by assessing your gaps. How much must you add to your knowledge base to become an effective automation tester?

Answering that question will let you narrow down your objectives in relation to what you need to learn. Take this time to assess your knowledge of the types, methods, tools, software development cycle, and methodologies.

Step 2. Learn the Basics of Test Automation

Once you know your gaps, it’s time to fill them; the first order is mastering the subject. You should understand what automation testing is about, why it’s important, and how it differs from the manual process.

You should also learn the concepts and principles of test automation, including the automation pyramid, test automation strategies, frameworks, and metrics.

Step 3. Learn Programming Languages for Automation Testing

One of the skills we mentioned that you should take into account to transition from manual testing to automation is an understanding of languages, including:

Java is a popular, object-oriented, platform-independent programming language perfect for automation testing. Its strong testing community offers numerous frameworks for units, integration, and end-to-end testing, such as Selenium, JUnit, TestNG, and Cucumber.

It also has an extensive collection of APIs and tools that help with database, performance, and mobile testing.

Python

This open-source, high-level, and easy-to-learn programming language supports multiple frameworks for different types of testing, including Nose 2, PyTest, Robot, Lettuce, Behave, and Testify. It also has libraries and modules that can help with machine learning, data analysis, web scraping, and more.

JavaScript

This dynamic, scripting, and web-based programming language is used in front-end testing. It supports mobile, web, and API testing frameworks, including Jest, Mocha, Jasmine, and Nightwatch JS. It’s the language behind one of the most cutting-edge and high-performance tools, Cypress, that can automate browser testing without the aid of Selenium.

C#

This is a powerful, multi-paradigm, and .NET-based programming language used for automation testing. It has a comprehensive testing framework known as Nunit that can perform unit, integration, and functional testing. It also has a popular SpecFlow tool that can implement BDD (behavior-driven development) via Cucumber. It also supports Selenium WebDriver, which can automate web testing.

Ruby

Ruby is an expressive, elegant, and general-purpose programming language with a simple and intuitive testing framework called Rspec, which can perform behavior-driven testing. Ruby also comes with a domain-specific language (DSL) called Watir that can automate web testing via Selenium. It also supports Cucumber, which can implement BDD using natural language.

Other languages supported across frameworks include Perl, MATLAB, Rust, and Kotlin.

Step 4. Learn Automation Tools

After mastering the language, you transition from manual to automation testing is familiarizing yourself with the tools so you can leverage any of them for the purposes they’re best suited for.

Some of these tools you will encounter and learn include:

Selenium

Selenium is an open-source, cross-platform, and widely used tool for web automation testing. It supports multiple languages, including those mentioned above, browsers (Chromium-based, Safari, and Firefox), and operating systems (MacOS, Linux, and Microsoft.)

Jenkins

This open-source automation tool is built to enable continuous integration and delivery of software projects. It is written in Java and can automate tasks like building, testing, deploying, and monitoring software apps. It also has Selenium, TestNG, JUnit, Cucumber, and more integrations. You’ll benefit from its expansive community.

Katalon

Katalon is a comprehensive, user-friendly, and AI-powered tool for API, desktop, web, and mobile automation testing. It has integrations for tools and frameworks like Selenium, Appium, Cucumber, and Jenkins.

TestComplete

This tool supports various languages, including Python, VBScript, JavaScript, and C#, as well as browsers and operating systems. It suits automation testers looking to create complex and comprehensive automation solutions with advanced features.

Cypress

This modern, fast, and reliable tool is perfect for web automation testing, with support for JavaScript and integrations for frameworks and tools that include Mocha, Chai, Jest, Jenkins, Cucumber, and more. It is built for testers who want to create automation solutions without using Selenium, with features like automatic waiting, snapshots, and time travel.

Appium

This is an open-source, cross-platform tool primarily used for mobile automation testing. It integrates frameworks and tools like Selenium, Cucumber, Jenkins, JUnit, TestNG, and more. It is best suited for testers looking to create native, hybrid, or web mobile automation solutions with a single API.

Other renowned tools include Cucumber, TestNG, JUnit, JMeter, Postman, Ranorex, Micro Focus Unified Functional Testing, and more.

Step 5. Learn Testing Frameworks and Methodologies

Your next step is learning how to design, develop, and maintain test scripts using a proper framework, including keyword-driven, data-driven, hybrid, behavior-driven, or page object models.

You should also learn to integrate your test scripts with software development methodologies like DevOps, Agile, or Continuous Delivery.

Step 6. Get Your First Test Automation Practice

Start with simple and small projects and work up to more complex and challenging ones. One of the best ways to practice is by testing real-world apps, websites, or APIs with the help of blogs, tutorials, guides, and other online material.

Get feedback from mentors or experts to improve your test automation skills whenever possible.

Step 7. Dive Into Automation Testing Community for Networking

If you started a career as a manual QA and transferred to test automation, your new skills pay off when you can get paid to conduct automation tests. To aid in that, seek out and fraternize with the automation testing community, especially online.

You can join groups, forums, or platforms where testers ask questions, share experiences, and learn from each other. Some examples you can explore include Stack Overflow, Reddit, LambdaTest Community, TestGuild, and more.

Step 8. Build a Portfolio

The best way to get hired after building connections is to have a portfolio detailing the work you’ve done so far and how well you have performed. You should clearly document and present your projects, including the code, screenshots, videos, or reports demonstrating your work. You can showcase the portfolio on your website, WordPress, GitHub, Medium, etc.

Step 9. Try to Find Your First Automation Testing Job

Armed with your proficiency in automation tools, frameworks, and technologies, as well as a portfolio, start applying for jobs. You can find postings on websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and more. Tailor each resume and cover letter to the job application, highlighting relevant skills, experiences, and portfolio.

Step 10. Don’t Stop Learning

The last bit of your process is to continuously self-improve. How? Start by staying up-to-date with the industry standards, best practices, technologies, and more. You should keep updating your portfolio with new skills, tools, and projects to improve and advance your career.

A Success Story from The Tester Who Transitioned From Manual to Automation Testing

Dzmitry Kavalenka, Senior Test Automation Engineer at EPAM, has been involved in automation for 7 years. His transition to this field was driven by the desire to move from Belarus to the US. Searching for a position as a manual tester was time-consuming, and positions were hard to find. Finding an automation position was more straightforward. With significant automation experience under his belt, Dzmitry prepared in a week, passed the assessment, and received a promotion within the company he works for.

For those considering a transition to automation, he recommends following their interests. Dzmitry emphasizes that the transition may be challenging, but if automation brings joy, it's worth it. His experience in manual testing and the theoretical foundation that he had played a crucial role in his successful assessment.

Dzmitry advises those planning to start automating to begin on the project where they currently work, or find a project with an automation opportunity. He underscores the importance of “real world” experience in writing tests for production applications to truly grow and develop.

Best Resources To Help You Move from Manual Testing to Automation Testing

To get you started on your transfer from manual to test automation, the internet provides many resources that make learning the fundamentals more accessible. They include:

1. Framework-related Resources

Many frameworks and tools with a decent-sized user base avail various resources to help users navigate their platforms. They include webinars, tutorials, blogs, forums, podcasts, and videos.

Examples include:

Katalon Academy — This framework has a learning hub dedicated to understanding its namesake platform. It simplifies all the concepts of automation testing, including web, API, mobile, and desktop automation testing, DevOps, CI/CD pipeline integration, and more.

LambdaTest, as we mentioned, is a cloud-based cross-browser testing solution with expansive capabilities. The framework maintains a blog section comprising blog posts and a learning hub with extensive guides on automation testing. LambdaTest provides access to in-house experiments to demo cross-browser compatibility issues, webinars on automated testing, manual testing, DevOps, and current trends.

You can also get resources from Selenium, Appium, Cypress, Postman, JMeter, TestComplete, and more.

2. Online Courses

There are a variety of online courses you can take to learn automation testing in 2023 and beyond. Some of the leading ones currently include:

  • API testing Using Rest Assured Test Automation Tool — This course is in Coursera and teaches you how to use Rest Assured, a popular Java library for testing RESTful API.
  • Creating Automation Scripts Using Selenium & Java — This is another Coursera course that will teach you how to use Selenium WebDriver, a widely used tool for automating web apps.
  • Automation Testing Masterclass — Selenium, Cucumber, and more. This course on Udemy teaches you how to use Selenium WebDriver, Cucumber, JUnit, Docker, and other tech to build a robust testing framework.
  • Automation Architect — Selenium WebDriver — 9 Live Projects — This is another Udemy course that will teach you how to design and implement a scalable and maintainable automation framework using Selenium WebDriver, Maven, Jenkins, TestNG, and other tools.

You can find other courses that get into the details of automation testing to ensure you understand the profession better and improve your proficiency over time.

3. Communities and Networks

Joining other automation testers where they congregate, be it communities built around automation testing, exposes you to more things you need to know and master.

You get to communicate directly with real testers ready to offer ideas, talk about their experiences, and collaborate on projects that advance the field.

You can find communities on social media platforms like Reddit or Facebook, websites built around or by widely used frameworks or technologies, and so on.

You Can Make The Transition From Manual to Automation Testing

Manual testing is not obsolete or, by any means, less important than automation testing. However, it now only covers select areas of testing that require human judgment to complete.

Learning how to switch from manual to automation testing will open up opportunities for expanding your skills as a manual tester and your career. Check out our complete roadmap to become an automation tester to learn more.

You can work within DevOps, Agile, or Continuous Delivery environments and incorporate new skills to expand your understanding of the environments and work in a different capacity at a more advanced level.